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The main object of the following pages is to exhibit, for the information of British readers, the manner in which the American people have solved the problem of Home Rule, which at this moment weighs so heavily on our political life. It is not pretended that the conditions in both countries are the same, or that the scheme which has been adopted in the one can be applied successfully in the other.
But the problem is essentially the same in both cases, viz., to reconcile self-government in local affairs with national control in national affairs; and the conditions are sufficiently similar to justify us in looking to the American model for matter of instruction, if not of guidance, in our own difficulties. A State in the American Union has not the national characteristics of Scotland or Wales, to say nothing of Ireland; but each State has, at all events, a provincial character of its own and special interests of its own, which override the differences between its own internal subdivisions, and mark it off as a separate community from other States. How to arrange the constitutional
system so that each such community shall govern itself, and yet leave the nation master of national affairs, is a problem which in America has been successfully solved.
The process of solution has been, in one important respect, the reverse of that which appears to lie before us. The American people had to build up a National Government out of the separate State Governments. We have to create a State Government or Governments out of the National Goyernment. The one condition on which all parties in the Home Rule controversy profess to be agreed is, that the sovereignty of the National Government shall not be impaired. The corresponding condition in the American question was that the sovereignty of the component States should not be destroyed or absorbed in the Government of the Union. The Union exists through the surrender by the States of part of their sovereign powers: a Home Rule Government, as generally conceived, would exist by the delegation of authority from the National Government. These differences being kept in view, there may be some profit in considering the line of demarcation which separates in America the province of the National from that of the State Government, and the machinery by which each power is enabled to exercise, but not permitted to exceed, its own proper functions.
It is proposed, accordingly, to sketch in outline the constitutional system-State and Federal—of the United States, with special reference to the powers
and methods of the Legislatures; then to examine the relations between the Federal or National Government and the State Governments, regarded as a system of Home Rule ; and, incidentally, to notice some characteristics and practices of American politics more or less directly connected with this point of view.
The authorities most frequently referred to in the following pages areA Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations which rest upon
the Legislative Power of the States of the American Union. By Thomas M. Cooley, LL.D. Fifth edition. Boston,
1883. The General Principles of Constitutional Law in the United
States of America. By Thomas M. Cooley, LL.D.
Woodrow Wilson. Third edition. Boston, 1885.
GENERAL VIEW OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL
The first glance at the United States reveals a political system remarkably unlike our own. It is not merely that the one is a republic and the other a monarchy; there are far more important points of difference than that. Those which may be described as most immediately obvious are, first, the total separation in the United States of imperial or national from provincial or local authorities of what is called the Federal power from the State power; secondly, the strict separation of each of the three departments—legislative, executive, and judicial--from and its independence of the others; and thirdly (a consequence of the other two), the absence of any single determinate sovereign body or assembly, or of any real sovereign other than the people themselves.
In this country, no doubt, we have something of the same sort as the first two characteristics mentioned. We do not confuse local and imperial business : we do